Critics lambast Healdsburg animal shelter directors

  • The new building for the Healdsburg Animal Shelter on Westide Road.

In a meeting room packed with more than 75 people, the four directors of Healdsburg's animal shelter heard pointed criticism Wednesday night that the board was "dysfunctional," as well as complaints for refusing to answer questions.

"You're shutting down what was supposed to be a forum," said Mike DeCoss, whose wife Beth is a longtime shelter volunteer. "It's unconscionable."

Board President Kathleen McCaffrey explained that directors would answer everyone's written questions as quickly as possible and the information would be on the shelter's Web site.

She said the non-profit organization's goal is "to earn and keep the trust of the community."

But City Councilwoman Susan Jones said she was "stunned" by the way the meeting ended, with board members retreating to a closed session without providing more specifics about finances and the status of a $3.5 million new shelter that does not have enough funding to open.

"I've given alot of money and so have friends. No one's getting thank-you notes," she said, adding the donors weren't informed on whether the money went to ongoing operations or to the new shelter.

There also were numerous defenders of the shelter, including those who applauded the shelter's "no kill" certification, the only one in Sonoma County.

Carrie Marvin of Windsor, a volunteer who works with shelters all over the state, said Healdsburg's four percent euthanasia rate compares to 40 to 60 percent kill rates at other shelters.

"I'm thrilled we live in a community where there's a low rate and have people who care about animals," she said. "Healdsburg shelter is the best damn shelter I work with."

In late November, a lawsuit over a large dog named "Cash" and his suitability for adoption thrust the shelter into controversy.

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